When Running Times magazine tested 120 different kinds of running shoes recently, the J.C. Penney "USA Olympic" model ran dead last.
The shoe carrying the Olmypic label did such a poor job of absorbing the shock of running that "if I trained in them I wouldn't be able to run the next day," one member of the U.S. Marathon team complained.
Olympic name to the contrary, the shoe is not a competition model but a "street or casual shoe . . . not for the marathon," responded Penney's officials.
The department store chain is paying the United States Olympic Committee 50 cents a pair to put the Olympic name on its shoes and expects to sell more than a million pairs, netting $500,000 for the committee's coffers.
The Olympic shoe, Running Times said, is virtually identical in construction to non-Olympic models made in South Korea by the same manufacturer for Sears, Roebuck & Co., Thom McAn and Footlocker.
Olympic officials responded that licensing the shoemaker to use their symbol did not amount to endorsing the product. But Jerry Kokesh, president of the Road Runners Club of America, complained that runners who see the Olympic name, "could easily confuse that with endorsement: 'Approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee.'"
As for the "USA Olympic" shoe, Kokesh said: "It's like running in two bricks."